Examining the word
“hell” in the NT
The term “hell”
is found twenty-three times in the King James Version of the English Bible.
There is a great deal of confusion among religious folks regarding this word
due to the fact that the English form “hell” actually represents three
different terms in the Greek New Testament. Lets begin to examine this matter.
Our first Greek
word is Hade. This word is translated “hell” ten times in the KJV. Many of the
new versions of the Bible have started using the word Hades instead of hell.
The origin of
the word is a bit obscure. The scholars have came up with two basic meanings of
this word. The first one is “not to be
seen” the second possibility is “all
receiving”. The best way to determine
how this word is used in the NT is to examine the context in which it is found.
There are several different ways in which Hades is used in the New Testament.
In some places
Hades is used to describe the general dwelling place of both the evil and good
spirits of the dead Notice what Jesus says in
In other words
he has the authority to open both the grave which contains the body and to open
Hades the realm of the departed soul. In
one of his visions, John sees “death” riding a pale horse, followed by “Hades”
(Rev. 6:8). You see we must understand that both death and Hades will be
emptied out at the time of the judgment. Notice Rev. 20:13ff affirms this.
The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the
dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his
works. 14 Then Death and
Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in
the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire
You see the
grave will give up the body, and the spirit realm will surrender the soul.
Hades is also
used sometimes to describe a certain area of the spirit world. Depending upon
the context, that area may either be one of punishment or reward.
Jesus warned that the wicked inhabitants of
On the other
hand, when Christ died, while his body was resting in Joseph’s tomb, Acts
This word comes
from the Greek word tartaroo and is only used one
time in the NT.
Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare the angels
who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into
chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
Even though this a different Greek word it is
translated as hell in our Bibles.
dictionary has this to say about this Greek word. the
name of the subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient
Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their
Based on context our word is used to designate the place that evil angels
are held until the day of judgment where they we face ultimate destiny in
Gehnna which will be our 3rd Greek word we will look at in minute.
This backed up by what Jesus says will happen on the day of judgment in,
Matthew 25:41 "Then He will also say to
those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire
prepared for the devil and his angels:
In Peters us of the word Tartarus there isn’t any indication that we should
assign some extraordinary meaning to this word. I believe it is reasonable to
conclude that tatarus is the specific name of that part of Hades that is used
to punish both the rebellious angels and humans before the judgment day.
2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to
deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under
punishment for the day of judgment,
Peter is telling us as he wrote this those who are
in that realm are undergoing continual punishment as they wait for the day of
judgment. This is also indicated by how the rich man was suffering and just
wanted one drop of water in the area of
Hades that he was in.
This Greek word
describes the eternal dwelling place of those who die apart from God. The word
is found twelve times in the Greek New Testament. Jesus himself uses this word
11 times. It interesting to note that Jesus spoke of “hell” more frequently
than he did of “heaven.”
The word Gehenna comes from an Old Testament Hebrew expression, “the
Jesus spoke of Gehenna
several times in his “Sermon on the Mount.” For instance, he said in
Matthew 5:22 whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be
in danger of the council. But whoever
says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.
This does not
mean that a legitimate use of the term “fool” (or its derivatives) is
prohibited because it used in several instances in the scriptures(cf. Psa.
14:1; 1 Cor.
We have another
passage where Jesus is emphasizing the importance of keeping yourself out of
the dreaded place called Gehenna.
"If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from
you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than
for your whole body to be cast into hell.
30 "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off
and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your
members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Jesus is not telling
us to literally do this but he makes the analogy to get realize how important
it is that we remain out of this place.
occasion, the Lord said:
remember in Mathew 23 when Jesus was really rebuking the Jewish leaders s who were on the brink of
crucifying their own Messiah, Jesus charged:
The final use
of Gehenna in the New Testament is where James tells us that the tongue
“is set on fire of hell” (3:6). I thing this suggests that the ability to
control one’s tongue (speech) is about as difficult as it would be to contain
the continuously raging (the participle is a present tense) flames of Gehenna. Or maybe it refers to the destructive quality
of the tongue. Now that we have examined the scriptures that use this word let
now turn our focus to the.
several important truths regarding the punishment of Gehenna that we need to
Gehenna is a
state that involves both the resurrected body and the soul.
John 5: 28
"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the
graves will hear His voice 29
"and come forth -- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life,
and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. See also
From this passage we learn that both the righteous and the unrighteous will
be resurrected from the dead. We can also see that Jesus clearly teaches us
that the body as well as the soul will face the agonies of Gehenna.
Notice both body and soul are included in the passage.
prodigal son was in the far country, he was “lost” (apololos), that is
seperated from the blessings of his home, but he was not annihilated. Jesus
affirmed in Mat.
instance where the word apollumi is found in the New Testament, something
other than annihilation is being described” (Morey, 90).
Vine notes: “The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of
Thayer defines apollumi,
in connection with Matthew 10:28, as follows: “to devote or give over to
eternal misery” (64).
Now lets get
back to idea that a person will be conscience in the dreadful place called
Gehenna and will suffer great agony. First of all this place is depicted as a place of “unquenchable fire”
(Mk. 9:44) – I believe this describes the extreme torments which the wicked
will suffer in this final abode after their judgment.
Jesus also spoke
of Gehenna as a place “where their worm dies not” (Mk.
describes Gehenna as a place of “everlasting punishment.” (Mat. 25:46). I think
everybody can understand that punishment implies consciousness. It would be
absurd to describe those who no longer exist as being “punished.” Consider this
Revelation 14: 10
"he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is
poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented
with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence
of the Lamb. 11 "And the
smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or
night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of
Here a real simple question how can a wicked
person be tormented with fire day and night without rest if they are not
conscience of what is going on? The answer is simple they have to be conscience
in order to be tormented.
could ask one more question. If the condition of the rich man in Hades was one
of “anguish” (odunao - “to suffer pain”), though it involved only the
soul, does it seem likely that the ultimate punishment of Gehenna, which
involves both body and soul, would be any less painful?
it must be stressed that the punishment of those in Gehenna is unending. The
fire is “unquenchable” (Mt.
"But some are of the opinion that this punishment shall have an end: this is as likely as that the glory of the righteous shall have an end; for the same word is used to express the duration of the punishment, as is used to express the duration of the state of glory.
This brings to the end of our study tonight. I hope it has deepened your understand of the word hell in the NT. While the study has mainly focused on 3 different word which is usually translated hell in our Bibles we have also learned a great deal about the agony and torture that awaits those who are not obedient to Gods will. So the things we have looked should really make you think about how you have been living your life and just how important it is to know that if you are Christian Jesus has made it possible for us to escape that dreadful place. We as Christian should rejoice everyday knowing we don’t have to taste the agonies of hell. It should also get us to thinking of how important it is for us to try our best to lead as many people as we can to God so they to can escape the pits of hell.
The majority of this lesson came from Wayne Jackson’s article which can be found on his website http://www.christiancourier.com.